Saturday, March 28, 2015

English 1B Class Schedule

This schedule is tentative.
It might be updated.
So check it twice daily.


Mon., March 23:
Bring Carver’s Where I’m Calling From and Literature to class.
Read prior to class:
Carver ("Errand” in Carver’s Where I’m Calling From - page 512 & "Cathedral" page 356, also in Where I'm Calling From)

English with McCabe posts re: Chekov and
Carver: just do a quick review and watch a couple of videos from each.


In-class: I'll give you some Chekhov hand-outs


Wed., March 25:
Chekhov (“The Lady with the Dog" p. 62)
Updike ( "A&P" p. 294)
both stories are in Literature
Poetry to be selected during class

Mon. March 30:
Read O’Connor (276); Diaz (425)
Review English with McCabe posts on O'Connor, O'Connor & Mercury and Diaz.


Tues.  3/31
PCC - No Classes - Cesar Chavez Day
 
Wed. April 1
Read Komunyakaa (650) and O’Brien (344)
Review English with McCabe posts on Komunyakaa and Tim O'Brien. READ O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story" on the post.
In-class: Brian Turner’s poetry selected


Thurs. 4/2
Borders of Diversity Conference with Brian Turner

English 9 (Creative Nonfiction) Schedule

This schedule is tentative.
It might be updated, 
so check it twice daily.


Mon. 3/23
Revision Due: Profile of Place/Person #2
Student Manuscript Readings
Best American Essay groups meet

Wed. 3/25
Brian Turner Readings (find them on English with McCabe). 
For Turner: review the whole post on English with McCabe, but read the two excerpts from his memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country, the New York Times Book Review, and the article from the Telegraph.
Best American Essay group essays and dates assigned

Mon. 3/30
CN: Pearson (45)
Brian Turner Readings

Tue. 3/31
PCC closed - Cesar Chavez Holiday

Wed. 4/1
Best American Essay group (Art, Victoria, Augusto)
Best: Baxter's "What Happens in Hell" (142)
In-class: Brian Turner Readings

Thurs. 4/2
Borders of Diversity Conference with Brian Turner

Mon. 4/6
CN: Dillard (357)

Wed. 4/8
Best American Essay group (Eva, Graham, Nick Serki)
Best: Sullivan's "Ghost Estates" (236)
Best American Essay group (Jessica, Marissa, Nick Sanchez): To be selected

Mon. 4/13
Draft Due: Memoir
Student Manuscript Readings

Wed. 4/15
Best: Daniels (225)

Best American Essay group (Mavi, Acacia): Mirsky's "Epilogue" (266)

Mon. 4/20
Best: Gilb (254)
Best American Essay group (Casey, Alex, Andrew): Munroe's "Night" (17)

Wed. 4/22
Best: Smith (188)

Mon. 4/27
Revision Due: Memoir
Student Manuscript Readings

Wed. 4/29
Student Manuscript Readings

Monday, May 4th, 10:15 AM—12:15 PM
Final Exam Meeting
Inscape Submissions Due today by 9:00 A.M.
Send it to me at cjmccabe@pasadena.edu
See Inscape Submission Guidelines for Details

Alec and Adelaide Hixon Teacher Preparation Scholarships


Are you interested in teaching? Need some money to help you along? The Hixon Teacher Preparation Scholarships might be something to consider. David McCabe, (we're colleagues, not related) is the coordinator of the Teacher Preparation Program at PCC and he has some great news. There is scholarship money available to help future teachers support their dream. If you wish to learn more, go to this site. You can also check with me.

Alec and Adelaide Hixon Teacher Preparation Scholarships

1C: Research Project -- Narrowing a Topic & the Research Question & MORE

Wednesday, March 25th, 10:42 PM

How's the research going? Could be better? 

Try these TV news sites: 60 Minutes and Frontline.

Why?

Chances are you'll find something pertinent to your topic at these sites. If you do, you might see the world you are researching better--you'll see people, places, examples of the concrete and the specific detail. And it will direct you to additional sources.

Check, too, some of the linked sites that appear on English with McCabe, at the right. "NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES & JOURNALS" and "FILM, TV & RADIO" are the ones to look for. 


for Tuesday, March 24th
Here's a good exercise I found re: research questions that we will review during our class on Tuesday, March 24th. We will follow this link to Bedford's My Research Project. It encourages writers to develop research questions by asking the "what, why, when, where, who, how, would/could, [and] should" of their topic. By doing so, writers can better focus their topic, conduct research, organize an essay, and advance an argument. 



**************


from March 19th class

What do I do? How do I come up with a topic that is narrow? Something that I can research and write about?

Here's an example of how one might precede:

1. Start with privacy, whistle blowing, and international crime

2. What sub-topic am I interested in? Art.

3. Art can include music, visual arts, literature, architecture, fashion

4. Art is too broad. Pick one from #3: Visual arts

5. Visual arts: film, painting, sculpture

6. Still too broad. Pick one from #5. Painting

7. Search: Whistle blowing or transnational crime and painting and 20th Century

8.  Nazis

9. Search: Whistle blowing or transnational crime and painting and Nazis

10. Something in the news. What comes up? Recent: The Atlantic, November 18, 2013, "Art Theft: The Last Unsolved Nazi Crime."

11. Name some artworks: from The Atlanitic, Nov. 18, 2013 article: "Earlier this month, a spectacular cache of more than 1,400 artworks surfaced in Germany—works that had been unknown to the public or presumed to be lost. And as details have emerged, one elderly American has been on the phone to his lawyer every day."

12. Narrow to artists and artworks to several: from The Atlantic, Nov. 18, 2013: "Henri Matisse, Otto Dix, Franz Marc, and Marc Chagall—in his Munich apartment, inherited the collection from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt. (Hildebrand worked as an art dealer for the Nazis and was tasked with selling paintings abroad"

13. Any big names involved: Andrew Lloyd Weber had a Picasso. from  The Atlantic, Nov. 18, 2013. Who is Andrew Lloyd Weber?

14. Anything else? Klimt painting. "They came in, said ‘Heil Hitler,’ went around the apartment, and took what they could," he said. This included pictures from a collection of beautiful pieces by Gustav Klimt and others. "Then somebody came up and dragged us down to the street to clean it." Also from  The Atlantic, Nov. 18, 2013

15. Klimt and Nazis: "Austria panel opposes return of Klimt frieze looted by Nazis," BBC,  March 6, 2015. website: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31747759
Is this the same painting?

16. Klimt, Nazis and Los Angeles. The New York Times, April 6, 2006.

17.  The painting.


At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Klimt's "Adele Bloch-Bauer I."


18. The New York TimesJune 19, 2006 , "Lauder Pays $135 Million, a Record, for a Klimt Portrait",


19. San Francisco Chronicle, March 17, 2015.  "Be the first to see one of the greatest battles in art-law history come to the big screen": 
http://www.sfchronicle.com/promotions/article/Be-the-first-to-see-one-of-the-greatest-battles-6139754.php

Trailer #1 for film "Woman in Gold" about the Klimt portrait


Prefer to do something CIA related? Want to make closer to your present experience? Something about the CIA and students?

Here's something that appeared in The New Yorker, March 23, 2015 issue. ""A Friend of the Devil: Inside a Famous Cold War Deception."  Here's part of the article:  [I]n February, 1967, the government’s [and the CIA's] cover was spectacularly blown by a college dropout. The dropout’s name was Michael Wood, and the operation he exposed was the C.I.A.’s covert use of an organization called the National Student Association. The revelation had a cascading effect, and helped to mark the end of the first phase of the Cold War.

"The C.I.A. had its eye on the N.S.A. from the start—both were born in 1947 . . .—and the relationship gained steadily in strength and intimacy until the day the secret became public. Its story is now told in detail for the first time, in Karen M. Paget’s Patriotic Betrayal (Yale).

"'Patriotic Betrayal is an amazing piece of research. Paget has industriously combed the archives and interviewed many of the surviving players, including former C.I.A. officials. And Paget herself is part of the story she tells. In 1965, her husband, a student-body president at the University of Colorado, became an officer in the N.S.A., and, as a spouse, she was informed of the covert relationship by two former N.S.A. officials who had become C.I.A. agents."

What about the CIA and college students? What do they have to say about it? Look here.


Writer & Veteran BRIAN TURNER & PCC Borders of Diversity Conference, April 2, 2015 (Thurs.)


UPDATE March 28th: Program Schedule
from my colleague Prof. Kuroki,
coordinator of the day's events

2015 Borders of Diversity Conference
Crossing Boundaries:  Finding Home
Creveling Lounge.
 at west end of quad, next to L Bldg.

On Thursday, April 2, 2015, the Cross-Cultural Center, College Diversity Initiative, and the English Department will be hosting the 2015 Borders of Diversity Conference in Creveling Lounge.  This year’s theme is “Crossing Boundaries:  Finding Home.”

We hope that you will find the time to attend one of the panels to hear our very own students share their scholarship with the larger PCC community.  Brian Turner - a writer, poet, and veteran - will also be reading from his memoir and talking about his writing.  If you are an instructor, we encourage you to bring your students!  

10-11:30 
Being: at Home (Student Panel)

11:30-12:45 PM
          Unifying a Diverse Landscape:  A Mixed Media Presentation (Student Group Presentations)

1-3 PM
  Keynote Speaker, Brian Turner

3:15-4:45 PM
American (In)tolerance

5-6:30 PM
     Identity, Agency, and Individuality:
A Cultural Bouillabaisse

Books will be available for sale and signing after Mr. Turner’s talk.  Refreshments will also be served.  All events are free and open to the public (bring a friend!).




BRIAN TURNER
  Veteran, Poet, and Essayist
PCC Borders of Diversity Student Conference
 keynote speaker
He will read his work and sign his books
Creveling Lounge
 at west end of quad, next to L Bldg.


Thurs., Apr. 2, 2015
 from 1:00-3:00 PM


The Poetry Foundation reports that "Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and lived abroad in South Korea for a year before serving for seven years in the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000 with the 10th Mountain Division. Then in November 2003 he was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division."  

Turner has published two collections of poetry and a memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country, about his experience in the United States Army. He is the director of the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, in Incline Village, Nevada. 

***
Read his poem
"Here, Bullet" 
at his website
www.brianturner.org


Watch and listen to Turner read "Here Bullet"


Turner reads his poetry on NPR

***
Other sites re: Brian Turner

***

Turner reads his poem "The Hurt Locker"


Turner's "The Hurt Locker" poem is not connected to Bigelow's The Hurt Locker film. Read this blog at The Washington Post for clarification.

***


***
"In his memoir My Life as a Foreign Country, Army sergeant and award-winning poet Brian Turner retraces his war experience, combining recollection with the imagination’s efforts to make reality comprehensible to paint a devastating portrait of what it means to be a soldier and a human being. What follows [are two excerpts] from his book." -- source: https://medium.com/@wwnorton/the-soldiers-enter-the-house-ad973237dd54:

+The first excerpt from Turner's memoir follows. You can read it below or at Newsmax.


“Here’s the situation,” Sergeant First Class Fredrickson said, gesturing to the tiny plastic red and blue flags driven into the ground on thin metal poles. There must have been thirty or forty of them arrayed in the grass around us, in no discernible pattern. It was September 2003, and, like some of the others gathered around SFC Fredrickson on that clipped green field outside our classroom, I’d been scanning the scene to gauge what the flags might represent. On the big-screen television in the company dayroom, the war waited for us. Fighters who shot at American soldiers in Baghdad and Samarra and Tikrit were perfecting their trigger squeeze for us.

“We are surrounded by the dead. And by parts of the dead,” Fredrickson said, emphasizing the word parts. “Your unit has come upon the scene of a possible ambush. Everybody’s dead. This is not a mass casualty exercise. So. What’s the first thing we should do?"

One of the students in the back said, “We better start scrounging up a shitload of body bags."

Fredrickson smiled.

“No. Like everything else, the first thing you do, the *first thing: set up security. Create a perimeter, and then you can get to work.” He went on to explain that a certain number of soldiers would be needed to deal with the task at hand, especially if time was of the essence, as it always was in these situations. “You’ll want to photograph the scene from several angles, if you have a digital camera and if you have the time. That’s why the flags are here. You have to place one flag at the spot of each body, or body part, that you find. If you don’t have a camera, do a field sketch.” We practice drawing hasty field sketches in our pocket notebooks, creating small legends in the margins, crossed lines with tiny arrowheads: a rough guide to the cardinal directions.

He tells us to use a certain Department of Defense form to label and keep track of the dead sealed up in their body bags. “And remember, this is very important: never place two separated parts into the same bag.” He pauses. “I’ll give you an example.” He points to the nearest soldier and tells him to lie down and act like he’s dead.

Sgt. Gordon kneels on the damp grass and then lies down prostrate, with his right arm stretched out from his side, as if pointing to something beyond us. His mouth is open and at first he stares blankly at the few clouds above. Then, he closes his eyes and assumes the role of the dead.

A few of us joke about Gordon and his ability to sham, to loaf, no matter the circumstances as Fredrickson steps closer to the body. “Imagine that this arm,” he says, gesturing toward Gordon’s outstretched limb, “has been blown off, here at the armpit. And there’s no other body nearby, and you can plainly see that it’s the same uniform and everything. Still, you have to put his body in one bag and give it a number and then you have to put this arm in another bag with a different number.” He looks across our faces. “Don’t assume anything. They’ll figure it out back home. They’ll test for DNA and all that jazz.” A pause, and then he continues: “Let me tell you something—you don’t want to be the one who makes some poor family bury their soldier with somebody else’s body part. Roger that?” As he carries on explaining the work at hand, my eyes wander over the grassy field and the bright flags stationed in the earth around us. It’s a rare day of sun in Fort Lewis, Washington State, and the early morning light illuminates the translucent nature of the grass in its subtle gesture toward infinity. The dead assume their positions. Some of them lie on their sides, others rest on their backs, their faces lifted toward the sky. Each with a numbered flag beside him. Some turn their heads slowly toward me, their eyes crossed over into the landscape of clouds as they call out with hoarse voices, quietly, asking for a drink of water. A small sip, they say. Just a sip of water.

The 1st Platoon of Blackhorse Company sits on the tile floor of the weight room cleaning weapons with CLP and bore snakes and dental tools after running lanes in the woods and conducting live-fire exercises. The men are dirty and exhausted. They laugh and shout out their orders as bags of burritos are delivered from the twenty-four-hour Taco Bell off post. I’m in the adjacent room with my squad leader, Staff Sergeant Bruzik, and Sergeant Zapata, my fellow team leader. We watch more of the war on television. Several Marines rush under fire to a bridge in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

They crawl on the concrete and asphalt of the roadway as the invisible trails of bullets zip past them from the far shore of the river. They return fire, shooting at what I’ve been trained to think of as known and suspected enemy targets. The Marines rush the bridge over and over as the newscast replays the scene.

The television is on mute. I don’t know what Bruzik and Zapata are thinking, but I’m looking at the far shore and trying to make out the muzzle flashes. Those on the other side of the river are honing the same fundamentals of marksman-ship we’ve studied at the rifle ranges of Fort Lewis. It isn’t something I mention to Bruzik and Zapata. I feel remote, somewhat cold, my mind working out the possible trajectories that might bring me home. I’m Sgt. Turner and I’m a team leader preparing to deploy to combat. But there’s something echoing through the branches and channels of my central nervous system.

On the other side of that river, Iraqis continue to crouch along walls and lie on rooftops in the prone. Even when I fall asleep tonight, they’ll continue to fire their weapons. The news anchor will narrate the action. On replay. Figures in the distance. Soldiers running toward the bridge. The sight picture placed over them as I dream and sleep in the state of Washington. The Iraqi men, again and again, pulling the trigger. Once the plane comes to a stop in the dry waves of heat and the orange night air of Kuwait, we’re bused north to one of the many camps along the border with Iraq. The military supply system begins delivering a staggering amount of new equipment to my unit. We shuffle through three different sight systems for our carbines until settling on a sight we’re told Special Forces use, too. Among other things, I am given a coil of metal with an eyepiece at one end and a tiny optical instrument at the other—for snaking under a door and peering into a room. Journalists report of units lacking the proper gear, like body armor for flak vests and slat armor for Humvees or five-ton trucks; we are given so much new and expensive equipment that our unit has to stow much of it away in metal connexes, the large cargo boxes used by the military to ship much of its inventory. I am in the first Stryker brigade to deploy to combat and the path of a number of careers depends upon how lethal and how durable this unit will be during its time in country—maybe that’s why we’re getting special attention. Our Strykers weigh nine-teen tons and are fitted with wheels rather than the tracks of traditional armored personnel carriers; soon local Iraqis will refer to us as “the ghosts” because of the speed and silence of our approach. When we learn about this, our platoon sergeant, SFC Daigle, changes our platoon nickname from “The Bonecrushers” to “The Ghostriders.” My new call sign: Ghost1–3 Alpha.

SSG Kaha, who will later go AWOL, packs away some of this equipment when I pass him on my way to the showers. He’s been fired from his job as squad leader due to perceived incompetence. I nod as he continues to sing “Rain-drops Keep Falling on My Head.” Long after dusk has shifted to stars, I lie back on my bunk and think about the divorce paperwork signed a few months earlier, the few addresses where I might mail a letter if I were to write one, and it occurs to me that if I were to die in the country north of our camp during the year ahead, my death wouldn’t irreparably alter the life of another. My address is now my Name, Rank, Unit, and the last four digits of my Social Security number are stenciled in black spray paint onto the duffel bag containing my worldly goods. It doesn’t seem possible that in the years to come, in the years after the war, I’ll get married and move across country and start my life over. Why should it seem plausible? No one stood at the unit staging area in Fort Lewis to wish me goodbye and, however I make it home, in a body bag, on a gurney, or stepping off onto the tarmac with my duffel in the belly of the plane, no one will be there to welcome me home. I step outside the tent to get a breath of air and quiet. A slight breeze lifts fine grains of sand from the landscape of the desert as if a white gossamer veil were slowly being drawn over the surface of the earth. There is a distinct sense of the past and the future being erased at the horizon’s edge. The circumference of the world retracts itself until it comes to a rest beneath the nightfall of stars within my field of vision.

Later tonight, I will read a book, a translation of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I will think about the idea of home, what the country before me might have in store, and know that I have become, as Aurelius had quoted centuries before, one of the many “leaves that the wind drives earthward.”



+The second excerpt from Turner's memoir  follows. It is known as "The Soldiers Enter the House" You can read it below or at medium.com.


The soldiers enter the house, the soldiers enter the house.

Soldiers, determined and bored and searing with adrenaline, enter the house with shouting and curses and muzzle flash, det cord and 5.56mm ball ammunition. The soldiers enter the house with pixelated camouflage, flex-cuffs, chem lights, door markings, duct tape. The soldiers enter the house with ghillie suits and Remington sniper rifles, phoenix beacons and night-vision goggles, lasers invisible to the naked eye, rotorblades, Hellfire missiles, bandoliers strapped across their chests. The soldiers enter the house one fire team after another, and they fight brutal, dirty, nasty, the only way to fight. The soldiers enter the house with the flag of their nation sewn onto the sleeves of their uniforms. They enter the house with Toledo and Baton Rouge imprinted on the rubber soles of their desert combat boots. They enter the house and shout ‘Honey, I’m home!’ and ‘Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!’ The soldiers enter the house with conversations of Monday Night Football and the bouncing tits of the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders. The soldiers enter the house with cunt and cooch, cock wallet and butcher’s bin on their tongues. The soldiers enter the house with paperbacks in their cargo pockets, Starship Troopers and Black Hawk Down, We Were Soldiers Once and Young. The soldiers enter the house Straight Outta Compton or with Eminem saying, ‘Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity’. They enter the house with their left foot, they enter the house the way one enters cemeteries or unclean places. The soldiers enter the house with their insurance policies filled out, signed, beneficiaries named, last will and testaments sealed in manila envelopes half a world away. The soldiers enter the house having just ordered a new set of chrome mufflers on eBay for the Mustang stored under blankets in a garage north of San Francisco. The soldiers enter the house with only nine credits earned toward an associate’s degree in history from the University of Maryland. They kick in the door and enter the house with the memory of backyard barbecues on their minds. They kick in the door while cradling their little sisters in their arms. They kick in the door and pull in the toboggans and canoes from the hillsides and lakes of Minnesota. They kick in the door and bring in the horses from the barn, hitching them to the kitchen table inside. The soldiers enter the house with Mrs Ingram from the 2nd grade at Vinland Elementary School. The soldiers enter the house with Mrs Garoupa from Senior English at Madera High. The soldiers kick in the door and enter the house with their arms filled with all the homework they ever did. They enter the house and sit down to consider the quadratic equation, the Socratic Method. The soldiers enter the house to sit cross-legged on the floor as the family inside watches on, watches how the soldiers interrogate them, saying, How do I say the word for ‘friend’ in Arabic? How do I say the word ‘love’? How do I tell you that Pvt Miller is dead, that Pvt Miller has holes in the top of his head? And what is the word for ghosts in Arabic? And how many live here? And are the ghosts Baath Party supporters? Are the ghosts in favor of the coalition forces? Are the ghosts here with us now? Can you tell us where the ghosts are hiding? And where the ghosts keep their weapons cache and where they sleep at night? And what can you tell us about Ali Baba? Is Ali Baba in the neighborhood? The soldiers enter the house and take off their dusty combat boots and pull out an anthology of poetry from an assault pack, Iraqi Poetry Today, and commence reading poems aloud. The soldiers say, ‘This is war then: All is well.’ They say, ‘The missiles bomb the cities, and the airplanes bid the clouds farewell.’ The soldiers remove their flak vests and turn off their radios. The soldiers smile and stretch their arms, one of them yawning, another asking for a second cup of chai. The soldiers give chocolates to the frightened little children in the shadows of the house. The soldiers give chocolates to the frightened little children and teach them how to say fuck you and how to flip off the world. The soldiers recite poetry as trays of chai and tea and cigarettes are brought into the room. The soldiers, there in the candlelight of the front room, with the Iraqi men of military age zip-tied with flex-cuffs, kneeling, sandbags over their heads, read verses from Iraqi Poetry Today. The soldiers switch off their night-vision goggles and set their padded helmets on the floor while the frightened little children pretend to eat the chocolate they’ve been given, their mothers shushing them when they begin to cry. And the soldiers, men from Kansas and California, Tacoma and College Station — these soldiers remove the black gloves from their hands to show the frightened little children how they mean no harm, how American the soldiers are, how they might bring in a pitcher of water for the bound and blinded men to drink from soon, perhaps, if there’s time, and how they read poetry for them, their own poetry, in English, saying, ‘Between time and time, between blood and blood. All is well.’ All is well, the soldiers say. The soldiers kick in the doors and enter the house and zip-tie the men of military age and shush the women and the frightened little children and drink the spooned sugar stirred into the hot chai and remove their stinking boots and take off their flak vests and stack their weapons and turn off their night-vision goggles and say to the frightened little children, softly, with their palms held out in the most tender of gestures they can offer, their eyes as brown as the hills that lead to the mountains, or as blue as the rivers that lead to the sea — ‘All is well, little ones, all is well.’


These excerpts, above, are from MY LIFE AS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: A MEMOIR by Brian Turner. Copyright (C) 2014 by Brian Turner. First American Edition 2014. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.


from The Telegraph, June 22, 2014
My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Turner, review: 'war made into a poem': A soldier with the soul of a poet has written a remarkable Iraq memoir
by Joanna Burke


When American sergeant Brian Turner was deployed to Iraq in 2003,
he took with him an anthology of Iraqi poetry Photo: Tom Bosch

You can read the following review here or click on this.

In 2003, an earnest American army sergeant called Brian Turner was deployed to fight in Iraq. Unusually, he stuffed an anthology of Iraqi poems into his rucksack. One of the poems was titled “Every Morning the War Gets Up from Sleep” by Fadhil al-Azzawi, a highly acclaimed Iraqi poet and novelist.

In the early hours of the morning, Turner recalls how he and his fellow soldiers would kick in the doors of suspected Iraqi insurgents; they would force the men to kneel; they would zip-tie them with flexi-cuffs and pull sandbags over their heads; they would offer chocolates to the terrified children. They would then turn off their night-vision goggles and read al-Azzawi’s poem:

Every morning the war gets up from sleep.

So I place it in a poem, make the poem into a boat,
 which I throw into the Tigris.

This is war, then.

This extraordinary image of heavily armed soldiers reciting the exquisitely sensitive poetry of an Arab intellectual appears about a third of the way through Turner’s memoir of military service in Iraq, My Life as a Foreign Country. Turner doesn’t mention al-Azzawi by name, but he does cite parts of his poem.

In an interview al-Azzawi gave last year, he recalled that his mother had not been impressed when he confessed that his ambition in life was to become a writer. “What is the real job of the Arab poets?” she scoffed. Surely it was “nothing but selling their praise poems full of lies, to this sheikh or that governor, to this vizier or that king”. The young al-Azzawi solemnly replied: “I promise you, I will not be like these people.”


That is the reason a soldier like Turner reads his poems. Like al-Azzawi, Turner also refuses to write “praise poems full of lies”. His memoir is an uncompromising story of violence and beauty, searing trauma and a dreamlike circulation between the past and the present. There is no future.


In many ways, Turner was destined for combat. His great-grandfather was gassed in the Argonne in 1918, his grandfather served as a marine in Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, and his uncle could evoke the pungent odours of Vietnam. He is steeped in war films; at the age of 14, he learnt how to make napalm.


Even as a 12-year-old child, he recognised how easy it was to confuse sickening cruelty and heroic fantasy. He recalls his grandfather telling him a story about patrolling the jungles of Bougainville during the Second World War. Unexpectedly coming upon a Japanese soldier, his grandfather slashed his enemy with his machete, stumbled on some roots, and then dealt a second deathblow.


The young Turner fantasized about a different option: the two men could simply have paused “in the shock of the moment before slowly stepping back” from violence. But that wasn’t what happened. The young Turner reverentially cradled the machete memento that his grandfather handed him, and observed it as a boy would a sacred object.


This memoir is full of such stories. They are told simply, with a poet’s sensitivity for language and a soldier’s abhorrence of sentimentality. His comrades masturbate in the showers, “lovers transported by their own touch”, and discuss sex with passionate vulgarity. Turner explores dream-worlds with a startling vividness. The spirits of the dead haunt him; they perch like owls atop graves, crying out “water, water”. The bodies of the dead accompany him. Their caskets are lined up in the back of the plane that takes him home. He keeps them company. He is a man; he is afraid.


He is also a poet. One day, he sees a sign taped to the doors of the army chow-hall: it reads “Wednesday Nite/Open Mic/Poetry Nite!” He recoils from this invitation to share his writings because reading and writing poetry helps to “forge an internal space within me, a space that didn’t belong to the army”. Perhaps, though, the real reason is that he “just didn’t want to show how vulnerable and sensitive and afraid I was, how deeply the word 'beauty’ intertwines with the word 'love’ and 'loss’.” Like al-Azzawi, he struggles to make war into a poem that he could then “throw into the Tigris”. This marvelous memoir is his poetic message, floating gently towards us.


1B: Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)



Let's start here with Flannery O'Connor writing to a literature professor.   She must have been a very patient woman. From Open Culture: "Flannery O’Connor to Lit Professor: 'My Tone Is Not Meant to Be Obnoxious. I’m in a State of Shock.'”


Want to learn more about Flannery O'Connor?  Who doesn't? Check out some of these websites devoted to her: Perspectives in American Literature, and the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

One of the most extensive websites concerning O'Connor is Comforts of Home: The Flannery O'Connor Repository.  There you will find links to online publications about O'Connor, study guides and biographical information. The New York Times also has a page on O'Connor.  Find an Atlantic magazine review of Brad Gooch's biography of O'Connor, Flanneryhere. More information about O'Connor's life and her writing is forthcoming because of Emory University's  acquisition of her letters, drafts, and journals. These materials will be available to the public.


O'Connor's self-portrait from 1953.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
O'CONNOR and art 
from The Paris Review
Flannery O'Connor and the Habit of Art
April 30, 2012 | by Kelly Gerald

"'For the writer of fiction,' Flannery O’Connor once said, 'everything has its testing point in the eye, and the eye is an organ that eventually involves the whole personality, and as much of the world as can be got into it.' This way of seeing she described as part of the 'habit of art,' a concept borrowed from the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. She used the expression to explain the way of seeing that the artist must cultivate, one that does not separate meaning from experience.


The sketches reproduced here are from Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons,
 work that she did in high school and college. 

"The visual arts became one of her favorite touchstones for explaining this process. Many disciplines could help your writing, she said, but especially drawing: 'Anything that helps you to see. Anything that makes you look.' Why was this emphasis on seeing and vision so important to her in explaining how fiction works? Because she came to writing from a background in the visual arts, where everything the artist communicates is apprehended, first, by the eye.



"She had developed the habits of the artist, that way of seeing and observing and representing the world around her, from years of working as a cartoonist. She discovered for herself the nuances of practicing her craft in a medium that involved communicating with images and experimenting with the physical expressions of the body in carefully choreographed arrangements. Her natural proclivity for capturing the humorous character of real people and concrete situations, two rudimentary elements she later asserted form the genesis of any story, found expression in her prolific drawings and cartoons long before she began her career as a fiction writer.



"Beginning at about age five, O’Connor drew and made cartoons, created small books, and wrote stories and comical sketches, often accompanied by her own illustrations. Although her interest in writing was equally evident, by the time she reached high school her abilities as a cartoonist had moved to the forefront. After her first cartoon was published in the fall of 1940, her work appeared in nearly every issue of her high-school and college newspapers, as well as yearbooks—roughly a hundred between 1940 and 1945—and most of these were produced from linoleum block cuts. When she graduated from the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville in 1945, she was a celebrated local cartoonist preparing for a career in journalism that would, she hoped, combine work as a professional writer and cartoonist."

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: read the remainder of this essay.


O'CONNOR'S influence:
O'Connor is important to many writers, so they frequently mention her in their interviews and essays, T.C. Boyle among them. Here is what he had to say about her: 

"[L]et us not forget Flannery O'Connor. I discovered her as an undergraduate (for an adjective-rich description of your not-so-humble narrator at the time, see above). I was in a literature class--the Contemporary Short Story or some such. And she, the most remarkable American writer of the '50s, was where she so assuredly deserved to be--enshrined in a fat anthology. The story was 'A Good Man is Hard to Find,' and it remains my favorite of all time, though certain pieces by the Three Cs (Cheever, Carver, and Coover) give it a run for the money. This story seems to me perfect in its radical synthesis of the horrific and the hilarious. I've read it a hundred times and I still laugh aloud at the scheming and senile grandmother, the howling brats, and the henpecked Bailey, and find the scene in which the grandmother's cat (Pitty Sing) attaches itself to the back of Bailey's neck, thus fomenting the accident, both chilling and (yes) wickedly funny. What ensues is a morality play that chills me right down to the black pit of my black heart. Accident rules the world, accident and depravity, and I don't have O'Connor's faith to save me from all that." (source: Reinhard Donat's webpage.)

O'Connor's notebooks. Photograph by Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

"Now I am perfectly willing to believe Flannery O’Connor when she said, and she wasn’t kidding, that the modern world is a territory largely occupied by the devil. No one doubts the malevolence abroad in the world. But the world is also deranged. . . . the novelist is entitled to a degree of artifice and cunning, as Joyce said; or the 'indirect method,' as Kierkegaard said; or the comic-bizarre for shock therapy, as Flannery O’Connor did." 
-- Walker Percy

"Flannery O’Connor was probably the biggest influence in my mature writing life. I didn’t discover her until I was at Arkansas, and I didn’t read her until I was around twenty-five, twenty-six. She was so powerful, she just knocked me down. I still read Flannery and teach her. . . . [I read] “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and then I read everything. . . . I thought the author was a guy. I thought it was a guy for three years until someone clued me in very quietly at Arkansas. “It’s a woman, Barry.” Her work is so mean. The women are treated so harshly. The misogyny and religion. It was so foreign and Southern to me. She certainly was amazing."
-- Barry Hannah

"I take comfort in the way that, say, Flannery O’Connor would tend to revisit the same situations without losing much in the way of her power or variety. You know, you have the surly daughter who is driven nuts by her mother’s cheer and simplistic piety and common sense, and a shiftless handyman around somewhere. There are recurring patterns in her work, but she manages to refresh them each time out. I suppose I hope to achieve something like that. . . . But to get back to Flannery O’Connor, what kind of experience did she have, afterall? She spent, what, one year away from her farm in Milledgeville? Yet her stories are full of life and drama and real humanity, and it’s because she kept her eyes open."
-- Tobias Wolfe

Bruce Springsteen was asked by The New York Times Book Review, October 30, 2014: "If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

"One would be difficult, but the short stories of Flannery O’Connor landed hard on me. You could feel within them the unknowability of God, the intangible mysteries of life that confounded her characters, and which I find by my side every day. They contained the dark Gothicness of my childhood and yet made me feel fortunate to sit at the center of this swirling black puzzle, stars reeling overhead, the earth barely beneath us."
-- Bruce Springsteen

"A writer like Flannery O’Connor, in stories like 'Good Country People' or 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find,' can not only make you laugh aloud, but make you cringe too. And make you think. To engage your humor and your emotions, that’s quite a trick. I’d like to think that I’m able to do that, to keep the reader off balance—is this the universe of the comedy or the tragedy? or some unsettling admixture of the two?—to go beyond mere satire into something more emotionally devastating, and gratifying. If that ain’t art, I don’t know what is."
-- T. Coraghessan Boyle



"My Dear God: A young writer’s prayers" by O'Connor was published in The New YorkerSeptember 16, 2013. The magazine introduces O'Connor's words by saying, how these "excerpts from her journal chart her thoughts on the subject of faith and prayer, and her hopes for her fiction."

A review of O'Connor's A Prayer Journal can also be found at NPR. Listen to or read the transcript of the November 20, 2013 broadcast here. 


Now for some words from O'Connor herself.  I invite you to read her address "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction" from 1960. There is also an audio clip of O'Connor reading it aloud here. It is in this address that O'Connor says the following: "The social sciences have cast a dreary blight on the public approach to fiction. When I first began to write, my own particular bête noire was that mythical entity, The School of Southern Degeneracy. Every time I heard about The School of Southern Degeneracy, I felt like Br'er Rabbit stuck on the Tarbaby. There was a time when the average reader read a novel simply for the moral he could get out of it, and however naive that may have been, it was a good deal less naive than some of the more limited objectives he now has. Today novels are considered to be entirely concerned with the social or economic or, psychological forces that they will by necessity exhibit, or with those details of daily life that are for the good novelist only means to some deeper end."



When you get a chance, and I hope it is soon, read her story "Good Country People". Funny, dark, tragic and wise: all the things another great O'Connor story delivers.


Milledgeville, GA is the town where O'Connor grew up and returned to as an adult.
 It also serves as the inspiration and landscape for many of her stories.   
A writer for The New York Times visited O'Connor's Georgia and shares his observations of what he found:

"THE sun was white above the trees, and sinking fast. I was a few miles past Milledgeville, Ga., somewhere outside of Toomsboro, on a two-lane highway that rose and plunged and twisted through red clay hills and pine woods. . . . Somewhere outside Toomsboro is where, in O'Connor's best-known short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a family has a car accident and a tiresome old grandmother has an epiphany.


"O'Connor's short stories and novels are set in a rural South where people know their places, mind their manners and do horrible things to one another. It's a place that somehow hovers outside of time, where both the New Deal and the New Testament feel like recent history. It's soaked in violence and humor, in sin and in God. He may have fled the modern world, but in O'Connor's he sticks around, in the sun hanging over the tree line, in the trees and farm beasts, and in the characters who roost in the memory like gargoyles. It's a land haunted by Christ — not your friendly hug-me Jesus, but a ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of the mind, pursuing the unwilling."


from "In Search of Flannery O'Connor" by Lawrence Downes, The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2007.


You can also listen to O'Connor read "A Good Man is Hard to Find." It was recorded in 1959 at Vanderbilt University. Note how O'Connor's reading draws attention to the story's humor.

O'Connor loved birds, keeping many species on her farm in Milledgeville, Georgia.
   She was especially fond of  "the king of birds," the peacock, pictured with her, above.